New York City firefighters are looking to restore disability pay for new hires that was lost under the previous state governor.
Under the current policy, if any firefighter hired by the Fire Department of New York since January 2013 is seriously injured on the job, the approximate value of disability protection amounts to $27 a day. That number is based on a probationary (rookie) firefighter’s salary.
So how did that happen? In June 2009, then New York Gov. David Paterson vetoed the New York City Firefighter and Police Tier II pension and disability protections, which affects any future FDNY and New York Police Department hires. FDNY hiring was frozen by a court order between June 2009 and December 2012, but since January 2013, 1,400 new firefighters have joined the ranks.
Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, spoke with the AmNews about Paterson’s actions and said that he’s spoken with the former governor since then.
“He had no idea that they were gonna lose disability benefits,” said Cassidy. “His goal was to make Tier III less expensive for the city in terms of firefighters and officers having to now work longer than 20 years to get a pension. He viewed it as a fiscal change that he wanted. So he didn’t extend the bill, he vetoed it.” Paterson was the first governor in three decades to do so.
In literature sent to the AmNews, Cassidy writes a letter proclaiming, “All New York City firefighters should have real disability protections, whether you are a 30-year veteran or a newly recruited member. Being a New York City firefighter is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.”
The literature, which also came with a video championing the cause, included testimonials and new hires and statements from the likes of FDNY Vulcan Society President John Coombs.
“As firefighters, we are constantly responding to emergencies, and as a result, we should be focused on the task at hand, which is the emergency,” said Coombs in his statement. “I really wouldn’t want anyone’s focus to be elsewhere.
“If someone is concerned about a potential injury, that individual isn’t giving his or her all to the task at hand, and that in fact only endangers that individual, but the entire team, because as firefighters, we rely on each other, and most importantly, it jeopardizes the lives of the people we are sworn to protect, the citizens of New York City.”
Cassidy told the AmNews that he spoke to current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about the issue before he was elected and has spoken to him three separate times about it since. He has also claimed to have spoken with New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and several other elected officials.
“We need a home rule to come out of the City Council for us so we can go to Albany to get the two branches to sign off on it,” said Cassidy. “Then we gotta get the governor to sign it.”
According to Cassidy, the majority of the City Council wants to at least have a hearing, but it still hasn’t come to fruition. However, the council speaker’s office told the AmNews that they’re currently in the middle of setting up a hearing.
Cassidy also pointed out to the AmNews that the city has loudly championed 50 percent of the 1,400 new hires being Black, Latino, Asian and female. He feels that the city should also honor that diversity by giving them the same type of pension that he has.
Attempts to contact City Hall officials were unsuccessful.